Friday, May 1, 2009

The New Academia: Should Graduate School be Restructured?

Earlier this week the New York Times published a somewhat controversial opinion piece about the current state of academia and graduate school programs. The author, Mark C. Taylor, who is the chairman of the religion department at Columbia University, boldly stated that faculty tenure should be eliminated, permanent academic departments should be abolished, and that graduate programs should focus on such broad, interdisciplinary topics as "water".

In the past, academia seemed to be a natural path for many University of Chicago students - the vast majority of a given first year class believes that they will attend graduate school immediately following graduation from the College - but as the years pass, this number declines, and more students push off grad school for a few years, or leave the ivory tower completely, instead pursuing full-time career paths in a variety of industries. Now, the academic market is as challenging as the full-time job market, with Ph.D. candidates vying for just a few select faculty positions, and most graduate students relying on adjuncting to gain work experience and pay the bills. Students in graduate programs grapple with the choice between continuing their work in academia, and hoping that job prospects will materialize, or leaving academia to pursue another career all together - an oftentimes frightening and jarring possibility.

Which begs the question: are undergraduates reconsidering the move to graduate school? And are graduate students thinking more about leaving academia? Is Professor Taylor right - does the American academic landscape need to be restructured entirely?

Post your comments and ideas about this topic here.

Want to hear more about the academic job market? Come to these upcoming CAPS programs:

Faculty Forum on the Economy and the Academic Job Market, May 4, 5pm, Ida Noyes Library Lounge (first floor)

Your First Year as a Professor, May 20, 4pm, Id Noyes Hall East Lounge (second floor)

Academic Networking, June 1, 5pm, Ida Noyes Cloister Club (first floor)

Preparing for the Academic Job Market, June 2, 4pm, Ida Noyes East Lounge (second floor)

Always check the CAPS Calendar for updated dates, times and locations.

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